Theobromine - danger, benefits and side
effects
February 2009 zhion@zhion.com    
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Theobromine is dangerous

Theobromine is a purine alkaloid widely consumed in cocoa based foods
and other consumed drinks. Most of the population must be exposed to this
compound. [1,2] Theobromine may have somewhat health benefits or even
therapeutic values. Usmani OS and co-workers from Imperial College
London demonstrated that theobromine effectively inhibits citric
acid-induced cough in guinea-pigs in vivo. In a randomized, double-blind,
placebo-controlled study of man, theobromine suppressed
capsaicin-induced cough with no adverse effects. [3] A test-tube study
showed that caffeine, theobromine and xanthine exhibited both antioxidant
and prooxidant effects. Based on this study, one may think that caffeine and
its metabolites may also contribute to the overall antioxidant and
chemopreventive properties of caffeine-bearing beverages, such as tea. [4]

However, prolonged excessive consumption may not be a good idea; it may
lead to serious side effects. In 2001, Jansson DS from National Veterinary
Institute, Sweden, reported a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and a European
badger (Meles meles) were found dead on a golf-course in October 1997
near Stockholm (Sweden). At necropsy, both animals were obese and the
main finding was acute circulatory collapse. Theobromine intoxication was
suspected as chocolate waste was available at a nearby farm and no other
cause of death could be detected. Theobromine and caffeine were detected
in gastric contents and theobromine was identified in the liver samples from
both animals. [5]

It has been found theobromine is potentially toxic to their reproductive
organ. Slattery ML, West DW. from University of Utah School of Medicine
reviewed 362 cases of prostate cancer, they found a possible association
between prostate cancer and theobromine. [7]

Theobromine is also known to cross the placental and blood brain barrier
thus potentially inducing fetal malformation by affecting the expression of
genes vital in development. [1] Theobromine has been found to cause
chromosome abnormalities in plant cells and in mammalian cells in culture,
and it has anti-mitotic activity. It is fairly potent mutagens in Escherichia coli
and other lower organisms. It was reported the E. coli was not able to
demethylate this compound. [2]

It was found that theobromine inhibited body weight gain of rats. Wang Y
and Waller DP from University of Illinois further noticed the decreased cauda
epididymal sperm reserve (38%), seminiferous tubule fluid (STF) volume
(33%), lactate concentration in STF (22%), inhibition of binding activity of
androgen binding protein (ABP, 21%) and reduced ABP content in STF in
theobromine-treated animals. [6]

Wilkinson JM and Pollard I. from Macquarie University, Australia reported
that fetal rat brain accumulates theophylline, theobromine and paraxanthine
when exposed to caffeine doses comparable to those attainable by normal
human consumption. [8] I am not sure how theobromine affects the brain of
young kids. It can accumulate in the brain, it is better for young kids to avoid
caffeinated or related drinks.

Reference:

[1] Eteng MU, Eyong EU, Akpanyung EO, Agiang MA, Aremu CY. Recent
advances in caffeine and theobromine toxicities: a review. Plant Foods Hum
Nutr. 1997;51(3):231-43. [2] Timson J. Theobromine and theophylline. Mutat
Res. 1975;32(2):169-78. [3] Usmani OS, Belvisi MG, Patel HJ, Crispino N,
Birrell MA, Korbonits M, Korbonits D, Barnes PJ. Theobromine inhibits
sensory nerve activation and cough. FASEB J. 2005 Feb;19(2):231-3. Epub
2004 Nov 17. [4] Azam S, Hadi N, Khan NU, Hadi SM. Antioxidant and
prooxidant properties of caffeine, theobromine and xanthine. Med Sci Monit.
2003 Sep;9(9):BR325-30. [5] Jansson DS, Galgan V, Schubert B, Segerstad
CH. Theobromine intoxication in a red fox and a European badger in
Sweden. J Wildl Dis. 2001 Apr;37(2):362-5. [6] Wang Y, Waller DP.
Theobromine toxicity on Sertoli cells and comparison with cocoa extract in
male rats. Toxicol Lett. 1994 Feb 1;70(2):155-64. [7] Slattery ML, West DW.
Smoking, alcohol, coffee, tea, caffeine, and theobromine: risk of prostate
cancer in Utah (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 1993
Nov;4(6):559-63. [8] Wilkinson JM, Pollard I. Accumulation of theophylline,
theobromine and paraxanthine in the fetal rat brain following a single oral
dose of caffeine. Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 1993 Oct 15;75(2):193-9.
ARTICLES IN THIS WEB SITE IS FOR YOUR REFERENCE ONLY. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTION, YOU SHOULD CONSULT WITH YOUR
DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2008. DO NOT COPY NOR TRANSFER ARTICLES TO OTHER WEBSITES NOR OTHER
FORMS OF PUBLICATIONS.
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